For employers across the country, non-citizen workers make up a valuable and necessary workforce component. To employ these workers, employers rely on various employment-based visas the U.S government offers. Though all the visas may allow individuals to live and work in the U.S., there are considerable differences in how easy and quickly they are acquired. USCIS divides these visas into three categories of employment-based (EB) preference. Here is a quick refresher on what each category includes.
Immigrants possessing extraordinary abilities in their field may qualify in this category. The qualifying areas in which a foreign national can demonstrate this ability include sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. In addition, foreign nationals must show “sustained national or international acclaim” as proof of their extraordinary ability. Though challenging to qualify, this category is highly desirable because of its current priority dates. It also does not require a Permanent Employment Certification (PERM Certification) from the Department of Labor.
The EB-2 category is generally for immigrants with exceptional ability, an advanced degree, or an equivalent degree. Typically, petitions in this category require a PERM certification; however, those seeking a National Interest Waiver may not need it. This waiver fast-tracks the immigration process for those who can prove their skills benefit the national interest.
This category is for skilled professionals and other workers. The requirements for this category are less stringent than the former two preferences. As a result, the wait time is also extensive. Employers must receive a PERM certification, which can take several years.
The EB-4 category is a “catch-all” for those not fitting into the above mentioned categories. Though primarily for religious workers, this category includes physicians and others. A relatively small number of these visas are issued annually.
This category is a relatively specialized visa offered to investors in U.S.-based companies. This visa does not require a PERM certification and generally provides a relatively fast path to an employment-based green card. However, it requires a significant investment in a U.S.-based company that creates many jobs.
Acquiring an employment-based visa is only the beginning. Employers will still have considerable work ahead of them, including completing and maintaining Form I-9s. With foreign national workers, this can often involve tracking various expiration dates and revisiting Forms to maintain compliance. One of the best ways to assist in this process is to invest in an electronic I-9 management system, which stores forms and documentation and sends reminders when action is required.
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